In 2012, when rock/pop singer LP (Laura Pergolizzi) was set to perform at Lollapalooza, she ran into a bit of bad luck. A massive thunderstorm forced an evacuation of the park.
“In the spirit of my crazy career, it was the one Lollapalooza that got rained out,” she says via phone from Los Angeles where she was about to “jump on an Uber” to go to the L.A. airport and fly to Italy, where her latest single “Lost on You” is No. 1 on the Italian charts. “I was on this great stage, and there was this cathedral of trees. The crowd was filing up and I had gotten this great write up in the Chicago Tribune. I was the first band after it rained. The monitor had washed up. That was the end of my sense of humor that day.”
A powerhouse singer who emerged in 2001 when she released her debut album Heart-Shaped Scar
, LP, who grew up in New York, quickly raised eyebrows with her distinctive voice and confessional songwriting.
She says she initially just “put a band together” in the wake of her mother’s death and set out to play whatever crappy clubs she could.
“I had the whole life’s too fucking short moment,” she says. “I didn’t know shit about shit. I started playing at the worst places possible on [New York's] Bleeker Street. I wrote terrible songs. I killed it. My only friend used to come to my shows and I’d play to her essentially. It’s a life experience. I took away from it an appreciation. All the shit makes me terribly appreciative. I worked really hard and went really hard at it.”
After the Backstreet Boys recorded one of her songs, she began to take her career more seriously.
“That was a moment for me,” she says. “I thought I could just write songs. I hadn’t thought about that because I couldn’t get arrested so long and the irony of ironies is that other people could do them.”
She got a publishing deal in 2009 and then signed to a major label shortly after that. But bad luck came her way in the wake of signing to Warner Bros.
“The label power paradigm shifted and I was left in the dust but the [2014's Forever For Now
] did come out, and that was a positive," she says. "The moral of my entire story is just to shut the fuck up and write songs. Even if you write a hit song, everyone wants you to write another hit song. If you’re writing hits or you’re writing shits, it doesn’t matter."
Another round of bad luck inspired the songs on her terrific new Death Valley EP
. A slow burner of a song that finds LP belting out the refrain with abandon, "Lost on You" captures the frustration she experienced when she went through a bitter breakup. At one point toward the song’s end, she lets loose a piercing howl.
“I was in a relationship I had been in for five years, and shit was going down,” says LP. “I knew it in my heart. It was that not so magic moment when you’re like, ‘Am I crazy or is this fucked?’ I had the same thing going on with my label. Something was remiss and off. I just thought, ‘Fuck.’ On the personal side, I realized this person was not seeing what they were doing. That’s where ‘Lost on You’ came from. I wrote that phrase in the back of the van on tour. For my favorite songs, the titles come out of nowhere. That was a good one. That song is a day-of- demo vocal. You can really feel it.”
She says she tried to redo the vocals but couldn’t capture the same intensity as the first take.
“The day I tried to go back and do a better vocal was a day in the middle of when I broke up with this person, and I was too fucked up to sing," she says. "I felt like I had a chokehold on my neck. There was a lot of emotions.”
The album’s opening tune, the plodding, transfixing “Muddy Waters,” also alludes to the breakup.
“It was a massive confusion song,” LP says of the song. “It helped me get it out. Before or after an event happens is my best writing.”
With the soaring “Strange,” a song about how we are all “strange,” she embraces a different set of emotions.
“That song felt celebratory to me,” she says of the tune. “I just remember it was one of those songs when I left the room I would come back with another part of that song. That was a fun session. I love belting. I always belt in songs, but that’s the real belter on this record.”
While many so-called belters don't translate live, LP doesn't have that problem. She's a dynamic performer — the upcoming show at House of Blues Cambridge Room will undoubtedly feature the same intensity found on the Death Valley EP
LP, Diana Chittester, 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, House of Blues Cambridge Room, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $12, houseofblues.com.